With the announcement of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series being tapped for a SyFy television show, I thought it would only be appropriate to recommend this week the very first Scalzi book I ever read: The Android’s Dream. The book was not at all what I expected: it was far better – and I’ve been a fan ever since.
The Android’s Dream is a highly imaginative and fast moving story set in the near future, where Earth (politically known as the United Nations of Earth) is a junior member of the Common Confederation, a galactic-wide United Nations type of governing body. While the UNE jockeys for a more lucrative and prestigious position within the CC, they become major trading partners with the Nidu, a more advanced humanoid species with a highly developed sense of odorous propriety.
No, wait… that sounds too stuffy, and this is NOT a stuffy book. Although it is full of government employees, government departments, government intrigue and lots of initials, it is not a stuffy book. In fact, it’s downright funny (as in tongue in cheek funny, somewhat irreverent funny and occasionally guffaw-ish funny). So let me try again.
Imagine yourself on Earth in a hundred or so years in the future. Some things are very much the same, and some things have different trappings but are not very much different from what we know now.
Hold on, that’s not going anywhere, either, and this book definitely covers a lot of ground.
Ok, imagine this: “Die Hard”‘s John McClane mixed in with Thomas Anderson (the pre-“Matrix” Neo), set in the future where our hero is a low level government employee by choice, rather than following the typical career arc (at which he could have excelled with ease). The bad guys are not just aliens, but also from competing government agencies and manic private enterprises, as well as from the ranks of B-movie thugs and even from theoretical ecclesiastical heretics. (Yeah, there are a lot of bad guys in this book, enough for everybody.) The good guys are not always biological, and the humans sometimes are not wholly human.
Throw in a damsel in distress who doesn’t know it, a mad scramble to find a rare breed of sheep , a long dead heiress, a church that seems a mish mash of theology and Monty Python skits, resonating military battles and their continuing fallout, suburban malls, geeks, aliens, freelance mercenaries, and farting as a political juggernaut, and you’ve got a glimpse of what you’re in for with The Android’s Dream.
Yeah, I know, I’m giving you a lot of lists and not a lot of exposition. That’s because if I started giving you some exposition, I’d end up not only giving out way too many spoilers and pretty much be relating the entire friggin’ book for you. And John Scalzi’s writing style, seamless world-building, fluid pacing and sometimes wicked, sometimes tender sense of humor is not to be missed. So I’m just going to cut to the chase and let Scalzi make a believer out of you himself.